In the middle of January, it’s hard to think about spring, but when it comes to gardening a little effort now will help prevent cracked pots, blight spread and withered plants when the weather turns warmer. Winter is a quiet time for gardens, and that’s especially true when it comes to container gardens. Keep your containers looking their best with a few simple tasks this winter.
If it gets cold in your region, don’t leave filled pots unprotected outside. Left on their own out in the elements, pots (and the dirt and moisture in them) will expand when frozen and shrink with the thaw leading to cracks. Terracotta and ceramic pots are particularly susceptible. Your best bet is to clean them up and bring them inside, or into a protected shed. If moving them is not an option, wrap the post in layers of burlap, and if it gets really cold, add straw between the layers to help insulate the pots against the cold.
Some plants can handle being cut down and protected with a layer of mulch, then left alone for a long winter’s nap. But you always have to accept the risk of losing the plant to a hard freeze or deep frost. If you have prized plants, exotics or ones with sentimental value, transplant them and bring them in for winter.
Plants that are going to be left outside can be protected with layers of straw, chipped wood or other mulch, or even covered in burlap or placed under a cloche. If you are leaving plants outside, make sure they are hardy enough to withstand your winter. A good rule of thumb is to choose plants that are winter hardy to two plant zones colder than the one in which you live. So, if you live in USDA zone 6, your outdoor plants should be hardy to zone 4. Find your USDA Hardiness Zone.
Once you’ve done all the transplanting, mulching and protecting, it’s time to store your tools away from the elements for the winter. If you dealt with any diseased plants, make sure you clean your tools thoroughly to prevent spreading any disease to healthy plants.
Now is also the time to start planning your dream garden for next year. Take the time to write down which plants worked well, and which did not. Keeping a gardening journal means you don’t have to rely on memory, and allows you to continue refining and improving your garden year after year.
You can also use the journal to keep notes of plant combinations that worked well – in yours or someone else’s garden, and take note of which gardening friend gave you what seeds. If you have photos of your garden, tuck them into the pages as well, and plan to take even more pictures next year. The visual reminders make looking through your notes even more pleasurable and help ease the gardening itch when there are several inches of snow on the ground.
Now you’re ready to sit back and let your garden rest till spring.